North Dakota Governor: GRE to Sell Coal Creek Station

BISMARCK, ND (STL.NewsGov. Doug Burgum today announced that Great River Energy (GRE) is in exclusive negotiations to sell Coal Creek Station and GRE’s high-voltage, direct current transmission system.  If such a sale occurs, the buyer would continue to operate Coal Creek Station and GRE would not shut it down.

Last May, GRE, a not-for-profit wholesale electric power cooperative providing power in Minnesota and Wisconsin, announced plans to retire Coal Creek Station, a 1,151-megawatt (MW) coal generating power plant in Underwood, N.D., during the second half of 2022.

Since then, the Burgum-Sanford administration has worked diligently with GRE and potential buyers to assist in finding solutions for the plant to continue operating, with Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford taking a critical lead role in the efforts.  Coal Creek Station has been in operation since 1979 and has 240 employees.  North American Coal’s nearby Falkirk Mine, the lignite coal supplier to Coal Creek Station, employs approximately 450 people.

“This is wonderful news for Coal Creek Station’s employees, their local communities and the entire state of North Dakota,” Burgum said. “Great River Energy has had a positive impact on North Dakota’s energy and agriculture industries for more than 40 years and has always been a great corporate citizen.  They are continuing that record as we work on solutions for Coal Creek Station’s future.  We’re deeply grateful to Lt. Gov. Sanford, GRE, the Legislature, our state’s congressional delegation and everyone involved in creating a viable path forward for Coal Creek Station and our lignite coal industry.”

After conducting a national search to identify and engage potential buyers of Coal Creek Station and the high-voltage transmission line, GRE has entered exclusive negotiations with one potential buyer who is proposing to buy the plant and the line.  The interested party plans to pursue carbon capture and sequestration, which was a major factor in GRE’s decision to negotiate exclusively with the party.  Carbon capture and sequestration is the process of capturing carbon dioxide from power plants or industrial processes and injecting it into deep underground rock formations that trap the gas and prevent it from escaping into the atmosphere.

This week, Burgum signed Senate Bill 2152, which provides a sales tax exemption for carbon dioxide used for secure geologic storage – providing an incentive to continue developing North Dakota’s abundant lignite coal resources in an environmentally sound manner.

Under the Burgum-Sanford administration, North Dakota became the first state in the nation to receive approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate geologic storage of carbon dioxide.  The EPA granted this primary regulatory authority, or primacy, in April 2018, capping an effort that began in 2009 under then-Gov. John Hoeven after the North Dakota Legislature gave the state Industrial Commission’s Oil and Gas Division regulatory authority over carbon storage.

Last month, Iowa-based Summit Carbon Solutions announced the world’s largest carbon capture and storage project, a pipeline network that would capture more than 10 million tons of carbon dioxide annually from ethanol plants in four states and transport it to North Dakota for underground storage.  Tharaldson Ethanol near Casselton, N.D., is among the partners in the $2 billion project.

“Building on the work of past governors and legislatures, we’ve created a tax and regulatory environment that makes North Dakota an attractive place for companies to conduct responsible and sustainable energy development, and those efforts continue to pay dividends with today’s positive news,” Sanford said.  ““After GRE made the difficult decision to stop operating Coal Creek Station or sell it, the cooperative has worked tirelessly to find a buyer for the plant and line.  Although negotiations on the transaction are still in process, we plan to continue working with both parties to help complete a sale for continued operations at Coal Creek Station.”

The State of North Dakota has been an active public partner with private lignite industry partners, by supporting lignite research and clean coal technologies over the years, contributing $40.6 million from the Lignite Research Fund since 2017 to lignite research projects with a total value of over $130 million, including value-added projects, carbon capture utilization and storage and rare earth studies.